Stay safe from biting, stinging creepy crawlers all summer long
August 16, 2011
Summer means sunshine, heat and — in a not-so-appealing category — summer pests in the form of biting and stinging bugs.
Experts at the state Department of Health said learning how bugs behave is a key step to avoiding bites and stings.
Watch out for deer flies and horse flies, because both species can deliver painful, itchy bites — and transmit tularemia, a bacterial disease. Both species tend to be active during the day and can commonly be found near ponds, streams and marshes. In order to avoid nasty bites, cover exposed skin and use repellent.
Bees seeking nectar or pollen away from a hive or a nest rarely sting, except if stepped on or deliberatively provoked. However, honeybees and bumblebees sting to protect a hive or nest.
In the event of a bee sting, remove the stinger by scraping the back of a straight-edged object, such as a credit card, across the stinger, but do not use tweezers to remove the embedded stinger. Using tweezers can squeeze the venom sack and release more.
What’s eating you?
Summertime means humans and biting and stinging insects come into close — and uncomfortable — contact. Learn about diseases transmitted by creepy crawlers and steps to protect yourself from the state Department of Health’s guide to zoonotic diseases — diseases capable of being transmitted from animals or insects to humans — at www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/zoo.htm.
Mosquitoes mean West Nile virus, another summertime concern. In order to track West Nile virus, Public Health – Seattle & King County is asking residents to report dead birds by phone at 206-205-4394 or online at www.skcconnect.com.
If you receive a bee sting or a bug bite, remove nearby rings and other constricting items, because the surrounding areas could swell.
Unlike honeybees and bumblebees, wasps and yellow jackets can be easily provoked. In order to keep stinging insects away, do not leave litter or food out. Otherwise, the scraps could attract hornets, yellow jackets or wasps. Call a professional to deal with nests of stinging insects.
Though most stings from wasps and yellow jackets result in only mild discomfort, some can cause severe allergic reactions and require medical care.
People allergic to bee and wasp stings should carry identification detailing the allergy and any medication they take. Severe reactions can impact the entire body, and can occur quickly, often in a matter of moments. Untreated reactions can even be fatal.
Bystanders should call 911 if someone stung by a bee or wasp suffers chest pain, experiences face or mouth swelling, has trouble breathing or swallowing, or goes into shock.
Summer in the Evergreen State also means ticks.
Washington is home to hard and soft ticks. Humans encounter hard ticks most often during hikes on trails. The insects attach to the host’s body for two to six days and extract blood. Though the risk is low, hard ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia, and cause tick paralysis.
People tend to encounter soft ticks in mountainous areas. The species feeds only at night and, like the hard variety, can transmit diseases.
The soft iteration can transmit relapsing fever, the most prevalent tickborne disease in Washington. If people experience fevers with chills, aches or sweats within a few weeks after a stay at a mountain cabin or in the woods, see a health care provider and tell him or her you may have been exposed to a relapsing fever tick.
Dogs tend to be top tick targets, so pet owners should check dogs for ticks frequently.
Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus. Stagnant water in ditches, gutters and plant containers is excellent mosquito habitat, so take steps to prevent standing water from collecting. Install insect screens on doors and windows to keep mosquitoes at bay.
Steer clear of bites and stings by using insect repellents and following the directions on the label. Cover up in long pants, long sleeves and socks when venturing out. Stay inside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes become most active.